To many, vendors selling everything from original artwork to photographs to knickknacks are an integral part of Manhattan's parks.
"The point of a public park is what you see here, all these vendors and the public," said street artist Kenneth Bondor.
Yet the Parks Department is proposing new regulations to make some of the most crowded spots in the city less dense by limiting the number of vendors there."Certain parts of parks have become very overcrowded and people trying to walk to or through the park have to walk through a gauntlet of vendors who don't have permits, aren't required to have permits, but just set up pretty much willy-nilly, wherever they like," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
The Parks Department is proposing limiting the number of so-called "expressive matter" vendors in popular spots like the High Line, Union Square Park and Battery Park.
Robert Lederman, one of the affected vendors, had harsh words for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Benepe.
"They pose as the greatest patrons of the arts, constantly talking about public art and public parks. In reality, their full-time job is to privatize all the parks, to put corporate art in the parks and to eliminate artists’ freedom of expression," said Lederman.
Parks Department officials said they have been examining the overcrowding issue for years. Benepe said even if restrictions are imposed in some areas, there will still be 28,000 acres of park land where the vendors can set up shop.“In fact, it was at the urging of Lederman that we created these rules in the first place," said Benepe. "He said, 'Why don’t you use the street vending regulations and just modify them to use in parks instead of just coming up with some kind of new permitting system?' So that’s what we did.”
Over the phone Lederman said, "The notion they did this to satisfy me is truly a comical one." Context of Mr. Benepe and Mr. Lederman's comments.